Nigeria league countdown: Who will win, who will lose?
Guest expert CLEMENT NWANKPA Jnr predicts all nine NPFL matches to be played on Sunday.
It is the penultimate match day of the NPFL. The battles for the title and survival have reached their peak.
Here are my predictions...
IFEANYIUBAH V ENYIMBA
Fourth-placed IfeanyiUbah have 53 points and could still mathematically win the league. But that destiny isn't in their hands. What they could realistically get without much of a recourse to other venues is a continental ticket.
A win in this game is not negotiable. Recent poor run of results have put Enyimba off the equation up the ladder. At 50 points, the best they could get is 56 points.
Many teams ahead of them are capable of getting that and even more. Don't expect much of a fight from ‘The People's Elephant’, who have settled for a middle of the table finish.
PREDICTION: IfeanyiUbah to win 3-1.
RIVERS UNITED V ABIA WARRIORS
Placed second on 56 points, Rivers United are very much in the mix with just a point keeping them from the top. They could go top if Rangers lost in Abeokuta then everything will go to the wire on the last day.
They are condemned to win, but up against relegation-threatened Abia Warriors, it will be a Herculean task.
If this were at the beginning of the season, one would have expected a fiercer fight from Abia Warriors, but they have had some rough patch this second stanza.
PREDICTION: Rivers will squeeze through 1-0.
SHOOTING STARS V WIKKI TOURISTS
Very bad case for Wikki. They lost the title when they blew a lead away to Nasarawa in the 90th minute two weeks ago after leading for 64 minutes. They lost 2-1 and that would have been title-deciding three points.
Now they are third on 54 points away to 15th-placed Shooting Stars. The hosts need all three points to stay afloat and one doubts if Wikki still have the fire in their belly to put up a resistance.
PREDICTION: Sorry Wikki, this opportunity has been blown. Shooting will edge it 2-1.
IKORODU UNITED V RANGERS
This is arguably Rangers' most important game in 32 years.
They are on top with 57 points and victory here will almost seal the club's first title since 1984. The players flew to Lagos enroute to Abeokuta while about 10 buses loaded with fans have hit the town. These highlight the importance attached to this game.
On the contrary, Ikorodu are confirmed relegated, but have found Abeokuta a good hunting ground. ‘Oga Boys’ have also had some giant-killing results recently. But those were teams they took unawares.
Rangers are well aware of Ikorodu's new-found form and are prepared. The visitors also have the quality to overcome this hurdle. Look out for Imama's hyper-offensive, all-cautions-thrown-to-the-wind disposition.
PREDICTION: A thriller...Rangers nick it 3-2.
NASARAWA UNITED V AKWA UNITED
A middle-of-the-table clash. Both teams are safe and can't aspire to win the championship. Nasarawa are ninth on 49 points, while Akwa are 12th on 46 points. What is at stake here is a higher table finish and more prize money from LMC.
PREDICTION: Nasarawa win 2-0
SUNSHINE STARS V WARRI WOLVES
Wolves are placed 17th with 42 points. Hmmmm...relegation is loading. They must get a result here or....(don't ask me what will happen).
Sunshine are safe in seventh place with 50 points. A better finish up the ladder should be an attraction, but is that enough? Wolves should get something here. Their lives depends on it.
PREDICTION: I'm tempted to go for an away victory here but I doubt if Wolves can hold on and discountenance the home fans' hostility. I go for 1-1.
NIGER TORNADOES V MFM FC
Tornadoes are in 13th place on 45 points, while MFM are 16th with 42 points.
The hosts have not got an away point in the league for four years. So, they have got 45 out of a possible 51 home points this season. Their survival is hinged on home form. Both teams are relegation-haunted so the stakes are high.
PREDICTION: I don't expect MFM to succeed where many had failed. Give it to Tornadoes 2-0.
EL KANEMI WARRIORS V PLATEAU UNITED
El Kanemi and Plateau lie 10th and 11th respectively on 48 points. Both are safe from relegation and are not title contenders. The spur should be a higher classification and better prize money.
Teams find it difficult to score in Maiduguri not to talk of winning. It is the most difficult place to get an away point in the NPFL.
PREDICTION: 3-0 to El Kanemi.
HEARTLAND V KANO PILLARS
Heartland are 18th on 40 points. It will take a miracle of 'Red Sea' proportions for the team to avoid a first-ever drop to the lower division.
They blew the chances of survival when they lost to Ikorodu in Owerri. Now, they have to rely on other teams faltering.
First things first, they must beat Pillars in Owerri. The visitors are sixth with 51 points and have given up on the title.